The Commission on Elections cited conspiracy in bribery and corruption as reason for disqualifying automated elections system (AES) provider Smartmatic on Nov. 29 from future Philippine elections, not voter return irregularities in the 2016 and 2022 elections as Presidential Adviser for Poverty Alleviation Larry Gadon misleadingly said.
The Commission en banc in a press release maintained that its decision to disqualify the company from the procurements of AES is solely based on bribery charges against former Comelec chairman Juan Andres Bautista for awarding contracts to Smartmatic in providing the machines used in the 2016 national and local elections. It said:
Through the Resolution, the Commission preempted a situation where an AES contract is awarded in favor of Smartmatic and it is subsequently found to have conspired in bribery and corruption. The decision released today is both a precautionary and preservative measure, intended to protect the sanctity of the electoral process and the public's trust.
Bautista faces money laundering and fraud charges in the Philippines and the US stemming from accusations by his wife in 2017 that he had amassed large-scale undeclared wealth amounting to millions of dollars overseas. His legal cases remain pending before the Office of the Ombudsman in the Philippines and the US federal courts and Justice Department for financial crimes.
However, in a video uploaded on Facebook on the same day the Comelec adopted the resolution, Gadon expressed support for the poll body’s move but misleadingly linked the disqualification to alleged vote-return “irregularities” in the 2016 and 2022 elections. He said:
I hail the decision of the Comelec in disqualifying Smartmatic from participating in any upcoming and future elections dahil ang Smartmatic ay (because Smartmatic are) cheating machines. They cheated president (Ferdinand) Bongbong Marcos in the 2016 vice presidential race and this was confirmed by the 2022 presidential race na kung saan ay tambak tambak ang panalo ni president Bongbong Marcos (where president Bongbong Marcos won by a lot). Ibig sabihin noong 2016 ay talagang pandaraya ang ginawa ng Smartmatic (This means that Smartmatic really cheated in 2016).
Gadon, who ran for the Senate in the 2016, 2019 and 2022 elections and lost, also said several senatorial candidates in the 2022 elections were cheated by Smartmatic but it was “unable to cheat PBBM (Marcos) by reason of the overwhelming turnout of voters.”
In 2022, Smartmatic cheated some senatorial candidates. How can some candidates who call PBBM son of dictator, tax evader, son of human rights violator and many derogatory names get more votes in Ilocano provinces than some Uniteam senatorial candidates? It is hard to accept as reality that they did not get at least one half of the 31 million votes. Nagbenta ang Smartmatic ng Senate seats (Smartmatic sold senatorial positions).
Media outlets including the Daily Tribune, Pilipino Star Ngayon and Abante have picked up Gadon’s claims, linking the disqualification to the allegations of Smartmatic's “failure to follow minimum system capabilities resulting in serious and grave irregularities” in the 2022 elections.
Despite acknowledging a petition filed by former Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio alleging discrepancies in the 2022 vote, Comelec said these allegations “remain unsubstantiated” while underscoring the integrity of its automation since 2010 and offering a free nationwide recount to resolve doubts.
While bribery charges were raised over the procurement of AES machines for the 2016 elections, the Supreme Court in a 2021 decision ruled that there was no evidence of cheating in the vice presidential race and dismissed Marcos’ electoral protest against Leni Robredo.
Smartmatic has provided Comelec with AES machines since 2010. (MJ)